student policies and procedures

Policy 03:28:00

Professional Judgment


Professional Judgment refers to the authority of a school's financial aid administrator to make adjustments to the data elements on the FAFSA and to override a student's dependency status. The school does not have the authority to change the need analysis formula itself or to make direct adjustments to the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Instead, the school may make adjustments to the inputs to the formula. The changes to the inputs are dictated by the impact of the special circumstances on the family's income and assets. The standard formula is then applied to the new data elements, yielding a new EFC figure.

The decision of the financial aid administrator is final. There is no appeal. By law, neither the school's president nor the US Department of Education can override the financial aid administrator's decision.

Revision Responsibility: Director of Financial Aid

Responsible Executive Office: President

Policy Appendix: Professional Judgment Request Form

Created in Formal Policy: July 6, 2018


The financial aid office has the authority under the law (section 479A of the Higher Education Act) to make adjustments, on the basis of adequate documentation, and on a case-by-case basis, to address circumstances not reflected in a student's original Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

When exercising professional judgment, the financial aid office will be mindful of statutory limitations and only address special circumstances, which are conditional that differentiate an individual student from a class of students. The purpose of a professional judgment is to determine an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) that reflect the student's family's current financial situation.

A professional judgment can be requested when an independent student/spouse or the parent of a dependent student has one of the following circumstances:

  • Reduction or loss of income
  • Reduction or loss of nontaxable income
  • Divorce/Separation
  • Exceptional medical/Dental expenses
  • Other unusual circumstances

Dependency Overrides

Most students entering a postsecondary school straight from high school are considered financially dependent on their parents. This means their parents must provide their financial information on the FAFSA. In some circumstances, the financial aid office can change a student's FAFSA status from dependent to independent in situations where providing parental information may be difficult for the student.

The following are examples of circumstances that may considered for a dependency override:

  • An abusive family environment
  • Abandonment and/or estrangement by parents
  • Incarceration or institutionalization of both parents
  • Parents cannot be located

The following circumstances would not be considered for a dependency override:

  • Parents refuse to contribute to the student's education
  • Parents are unwilling to provide information on the FAFSA or for verification
  • Parents do not claim the student as a dependent for income tax purposes
  • Student demonstrates total self-sufficiency

Each professional judgment request will be considered on a case-by-case basis and will require specific documentation for each case along with the Professional Judgment form.  All documentation must be received before a final decision can be determined. Students who request a professional judgment will automatically be slected for verifrication unless already chosen by the Department of Education. Verification must be completed before a professional judgment can be considered.

Once a decision is made the student will be notified of the determination along with any changes that are reflected in the financial aid awards for the year.